A Survivor’s Success Story in Miami Beach

Read Time: 5 mins

Leonard (Leibesh) Bobick’s life story was the epitome of the American Dream. He was born in 1934 in Krakow, Poland, to a religious Jewish family that owned a kosher food business. When he was just 5 yrs old, Hitler’s army invaded Poland and thus began the severe persecution and restrictions of rights of all Jews. As a result of the German invasion, the entire family was sent to a harsh labor camp in Siberia. His wife, Lila Bobick, told us her late husband “Lenny” never wanted to talk about that part of his childhood, but the family account handed down was of hard work and severe food rations, sometimes leading them to exist on eating grass and drinking melted snow. An unsuccessful escape attempt landed Bobick in a Russian hospital where he was in a prolonged coma, teetering between life and death. He survived, but it left him with lifelong medical conditions.

Years before WWII began, Leonard’s aunt Frieda Edell was fortunate enough to immigrate to the U.S. and then to Miami Beach with her husband Joseph. There they became associated with the family, the Grossingers (from the Catskills). In 1940, together the two families built the hotel Grossinger’s South at 1701 Collins Avenue, designed by the Art Deco architect, L. Murray Dixon. After housing the military during the war, the hotel name was changed to the Ritz Plaza (currently the SLS). For years the Edells worked towards bringing the whole Bobick family to the U.S. to escape the extreme hardships of their life in Europe. Finally in 1950, they were able to sponsor Sam and Regina Bobick along with their four sons and three daughters to live with them in Miami Beach. With no money of their own and speaking only Yiddish, they bravely journeyed to America.

Vintage postcard of the Ritz Plaza that was built by Bobick’s aunt Frieda Edell and the Grossingers.
Plaque erected on the south side of the current SLS honoring the original owners and architect.

At just 16 yrs old, Leonard Bobick’s only goal upon arriving in this country was to learn the language and make enough money to take care of his entire family. With holes in his shoes and his pants too big and held up with a rope, he walked around Miami Beach dreaming of one day making a name for himself. Soon he was working at 50 cents an hour as a busboy at the Concord Cafeteria, which was owned by the Edells. Since he spoke the same language as the majority of the Jewish customers, he received the largest tips when he schmoozed with them or they asked for extra danishes, pickles or rolls.

Three years later, Abraham Hantin, another relative from NY was able to get most of the family secure jobs up north. They relocated to Borough Park, Brooklyn where Lenny Bobick worked in ice cream distribution and as a bakery driver under one of the newly formed unions that were controlled by Jimmy Hoffa. He worked long hours, six days a week at the same time many of his friends just wanted to hang out and have fun. After six years, he amassed a large sum of money and decided to move back to Miami Beach, where he envisioned warm winters in the sun.

At 25 years old, Bobick was able to buy a business at 1450 Collins Avenue called Hoffman’s Cafeteria. With his brother Isaac, they cooked original kosher Eastern European dishes, with his niece, Ruthie Ament taking orders and serving free coffee refills. It was a large thriving popular eatery, especially with local lawyers and judges. Next he opened a similar restaurant in Hialeah, where at the time there were many factories with Jewish employees but no kosher restaurants nearby. Bobick said it was one of his most successful enterprises.

Leonard and Isaac Bobick behind the counter at Hoffman’s Cafeteria.

His success increased over years and Leonard Bobick, as promised, took care of his parents and all of his siblings. He formed the Bobick Brother’s Business Company with his two brothers as partners. They subsequently started the Central Cab and then the Yellow Cab business. Operating the business out of Original Phil’s Deli at 525 Arthur Godfrey Street with his modern 1970s “cell phone”, he directed a whole fleet of taxi cabs. Over the years, Bobick also invested in real estate on Miami Beach, buying dozens of apartment buildings and storefronts, many of them in the Art Deco District.

Photograph of Leonard Bobick
Photograph of the whole Bobick family taken in the United States.

Living comfortably now, the family grew and prospered. Because of his hard work and dedication to taking care of his whole family all those decades, Leonard never married until 2015 when he was 80 years old. Married for five years to his devoted wife Lila,”Lenny” Bobick passed away in February 2020. Lila Bobick says her husband never dwelled on his tragic experiences from when he was young. He was a wonderful, lively and very talkative man that loved to joke around with people, saying “it is better to laugh than cry”. He was sad when South Beach began changing and there were no more seniors sitting on all the porches or kosher delis and bakeries around the block. He was especially upset when The Rascal House closed down in 2006, calling it a “goldmine”. When asking Mrs. Bobick if her husband was a fan and collector of Art Deco, she laughingly replied, “Well yes, during his lifetime he loved to collect Art Deco buildings!”.

Photograph of Leonard Bobick with his wife Ross Lila Bobick.

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